Work abroad empowers women

The phenomenon of women leaving for work in Canada has modified gender roles and women’s status and has enhanced gender equality, an official of the International Labor Organization has told an ongoing conference.

“Women who find employment in Canada gain access to financial resources that permits them to influence how funds are used in the household. They can also experience more autonomy over household decisions, said  migration & Cross Cultural specialist Marisol Diaz on the second day of the International Conference on Gender, Migration, and Development.

However, I’ve  noted that this empowerment did not come automatically and at some price. In fact, she said, many well-educated, highly-skilled women end up in domestic work like nursing, care-giving, and household services because these were traditional jobs associated with women.

“A significant number of migrant women experience downward occupational mobility, de-skilling, and a re-orientation away from paid work and towards the domestic sphere,” they accepted these jobs because they offered better pay. Women migrant workers were usually employed in jobs not covered or inadequately covered by labor legislation or other social security or welfare provisions — even more so than jobs occupied by their male counterparts. So you have to make sure of getting proper information and coverage.

The jobs that women found themselves in, like domestic work, made them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because they were in the private sphere. Domestic workers in many countries, including US, were not covered by labor laws, thus depriving them of legal protection.

In general,  said violence, abuses, and labor exploitation in male-dominated sectors were well-documented and more exposed since men usually worked in groups in construction and agriculture. On the other hand, violence, abuses and exploitation against women migrant workers are less known since they occur in more invisible labor market situations such as the domestic sector and the entertainment industry.

Furthermore, too many women migrants still today experience extreme exploitation and abuse in situations of trafficking, bondage, and slavery. Quoting  estimates, I said about 98 percent of those trafficked for commercial sex were women and girls.  In terms of labor exploitation, victimized women and girls still outnumber men and boys, at the ratio of 56 is to 44, she said.

These figures have prompted experts to call for gender-responsive anti-trafficking interventions. Even as domestic work was paid less, it was essential to the economies and societies of labor-receiving countries. They provide human resources in the paid economy — in jobs that national women do not want but that are essential and that allow a country to maintain its global competitiveness.

They also play key roles in the care economy — in terms of household chores and the care of dependent children, the elderly, the infirm and the disabled — freeing national women to take up higher status and better paying jobs in the national economy.

The phenomenon of women migration has other positive developments. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of skilled migrant women from third-world countries going to industrialized countries has increased, where growth rates higher than those for unskilled women or skilled men. Indeed, emigration rates to industrialized countries of highly-skilled women [with tertiary education] often exceed those of their male counterparts. The “worrying issue” was that most of these skilled and highly-skilled women who try to find better paying jobs abroad or US, ended up in occupations below their qualifications.

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